Find all details about sea freight from China to the USA!

Every business requires expansion into different geographies to good. If you are importing goods from other countries, mostly because of better quality products, and possibilities of cost optimisation opportunities, then it is essential to evaluate the best means of transporting these goods to facilitate smooth import and export. Sea Freight is the most optimised way of transportation, particularly for products shipped from China to the USA. Options such as Low Container Load, Full Container Load, along with cheap rates, make the sea the most opted choice of today’s businesses. 

Even with disruptions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, transportation of goods from China to the USA is continuing. There was an initial delay in production, but China has restored normalcy and shipping has begun again. 

Let us look at this efficient way of transporting goods from China to the USA so that it optimises your business’ supply chain. You must check various aspects while evaluating the process of sea freight from China to the USA.  After detailed research, we have divided the entire process into five large parts. They are as follows: 

Part 1: Managing Ocean freight

Part 2: Port of China and the US

Part 3: Transit Time

Part 4: Cost of Freight and Ocean Rates

Part 5: The process of Sea freight

Part 6: How can China Freight company aid the process


1. Managing Ocean Freight

In this case, handling the overall freight is of prime importance. It is important to take care and evaluate every aspect to ensure that the respective goods get placed in the correct containers. This is mandatory not only in respect of its secure shipping but also from the cost perspective. Every shipment has to be placed in the correct container, use the right shipping type and have secure packaging while optimising costs. Only then will the deal be a profitable one. Let us detail each factor one by one. 

  • Container Type

There are mainly three types of containers differentiated on the basis of the volume and purpose of the freighted goods. They are 20 feet general purpose, 40 feet general purpose and 40 feet high cube. General-purpose containers usually carry dry goods. A standard GP container can also transport fluid goods if packed in a flexible container bag. The 20 GP containers are meant to carry bulky goods while the 40 GP ones carry voluminous goods, even though both of them have the same maximum load capacity.

  • Shipping Type: 

There are mainly two types – Less Container Load or Full Container Load. Less Container load consists of your goods and goods from different other importers that are moving from the same loading port and going to the same destination port. Full Container load means only your products are loaded into a full container. 

When you are about to ship a large number of goods, the per-unit freight cost becomes low. In such a case, FCL is the best option as it moves from container yard to container yard while LCL moves from freight station to freight station. Also, it is difficult to track shipments in LCL as it is clubbed with goods of other importers as well. Finding any misplaced or lost items become even more troublesome.

  • Packaging: 

Ensuring safe packaging before shipping goods from China to the USA is very crucial. Stacking the cargoes with pallets be it for shipping door-to-door or port-to-port is an effective way of ensuring safety. The number of pallets to be used is dependent on factors like height and weight of the load, space of the container and unloading requirements. Sea freight from China to the USA takes around a month to reach. In this entire journey, the goods are loaded and unloaded multiple times. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure complete safety. Also, factors such as breakage, stress and theft need to be accounted for.

  • LCL Rates: 

Make all your decisions keeping the price points in mind. LCLs are generally priced according to the volume and not by the weight of the goods. Heavyweight items are exceptions to this way of pricing. To be sure of the ocean rates, factors like pickup and delivery charge, route charges, insurance charges, customs brokerage, security surcharges and freight station chargers.  

2. Ports of China and the US: 

Shipping by sea begins from port to port. This implies that a standard container rate differs in different ports. China is among the world’s top ports, and more than half of this port is located in the country. Shipping of sea freight involves transit through various ports other than the source and the destination ports. China has the world’s best ports, and here is a list of them.

  • Shanghai: Located on the Yangtze River delta, many developed towns and cities are near this port. It serves as the main port of origin for factories in Zhejiang and Jiangsu.
  • Shenzhen: Serving as the southern link of the country to the world, Shenzhen is a key port. It is also jam-packed because of the Qianhai-Shekou Free-Trade Zone. 
  • Hong Kong: This port connects 400+ countries with China and also accounts for 300+ container-liner services every week. It is a popular hub for transhipment of cargoes. 
  • Dalian: Being the second biggest container transhipment hub of China, it is a primary point of export for North-eastern China. It has become even more advantageous from the Liaoning Free- trade Zone.
  • Guangzhou: This port is located in the Pearl River Delta. It is a key international shipping hub and also acts as a port of origin for many importers, shippers and manufacturers. 

The common ports of USA are Long Beach, Seattle, Los Angeles, Savannah, Oakland and New York. 

3. Transit times

Getting a time frame for the entire shipping process is essential. You can get a rough idea using the Estimated Transit Time. Here is a list of expected timelines for sea freight to reach from China to the USA. It depends on which coast of USA the delivery needs to go and if its LCL or FCL.

  • US West FCL: 18 business days
  • US West LCL: 25-30 business days
  • US East FCL: 28-30 business days
  • US East LCL: 35-40 business days

Factors like custom delays, port congestion and adverse weather conditions can further extend these timelines. Ocean freight delays have been reduced significantly of late making it the top choice for most businesses. 

4. Cost of Freight and Ocean Rates

One has to look into the entire cost of the freight which has different component. Ocean rates vary according to routes. They include base charges, any extras but does not involve port charges and customs clearance. It also includes specific destination port-based charges which are – duty and tax, terminal handling charge and destination agent service charges. A few factors that contribute towards the overall cost of freight are:

  • To-door rates
  • Rates on FCL and LCL
  • Sudden changes in cost due to capacity, demand, seasonal conditions etc.

Other than these factors, there are certain times, such as popular festivals when wait times for deliveries increase. So prior planning is required. Consult the manufacturer to get a comprehensive view of the total charges and expected freight quote. This will help you in getting an estimate of the total landed cost.

5. The Process of Sea Freight

For those that are uninitiated, this process can be quite complicated. So, it is important that you keep certain important factors in mind.

  • Know import/export rules in the country you are shipping to: 

This aspect is vital because non-compliance in this regard will lead to locking of your shipment and might also lead to penalties. 

  • Import Rights: 

There are many rules and regulations that govern the entire process. Different goods have different laws related to it. For example, only a custom authority has rights to sanction goods that qualify for personal use. 

  • Choosing which goods to import: 

By making the right choice of goods, you can increase your overall profit by a significant amount. Shipping those goods where transportation in large quantities is possible is advisable.

  • Calculate Total-Landed Cost: 

You will understand the margins that can be obtained from each type of shipped product using the total landed cost. The total-landed cost includes rate of duty, price of the product when purchased, the shipping cost by the freight forwarder, tax, custom clearance fees and land transportation if required. 

When you receive quotes from different freighters, do not blindly go for the cheapest option. Instead, evaluate the deal holistically. If the charges are drastically low, you can expect something suspicious or hidden in the deal. Choosing a good freighter is vital because they ensure better operations and affordable prices.

  • Place an order with the manufacturer: 

Contact the manufacturer in China and check if he agrees with the FOB terms laid out by the nearest port. This is known to decrease your overall cost mainly. Considering the overall delays, it is advisable that you place the order three months before. 

  • Plan the shipping ahead: 

Many unavoidable delays happen at different ports of transit. Bad weather and other unexpected issues also crop up. So, it is wise to consider a buffer and ship the goods accordingly so that they can get delivered as per the expected time.

  • Tracking the Shipment: 

Keep all the information regarding the shipment that your freight company gives you handy. Using the IDs provided, you can trace your shipment and be better informed about its current status and expected delivery. 

  • Delivery of Shipment: 

The receiver at the destination port can obtain the shipment once customs have cleared it. It takes a maximum of 2-days to get the shipment cleared. However, if that is not the case, you can expect some issue. In such cases, consult a customs broker to get you out of this issue and avoid exorbitant charges as well. Prepare shipping documents as soon as the goods leave China. The documents that are required to clear goods at the destination are the invoice, bill of landing, certificate of origin and packaging list. You can obtain these from the supplier. 

How can China Freight company aid the process?

Let us discuss the importance of China Freight, a company that ensures the implementation of proper supply-chain process. The advantages it can provide are as follows-

    • The company is reliable and has a dependable and established supply chain. This cuts down risks and ensures safe and smooth shipping of goods to the destination. 
    • In case of any issues at the ports, they are better equipped to handle the situation.
    • They are also better prepared to respond in unprecedented situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic that has had a massive impact on the transfer of goods between countries. 
    • It can offer competitive rates on consignments.
    • The operation is easy, quick, as well as accurate.
    • Also, they provide email and SMS alerts to track the shipment or to inform in case of any changes.
    • It operates to and from all major ports.
    • Moreover, they have the capability to deal with e-commerce players and supplying to their warehouses. This capacity building has been done by forwarders to stay ahead in the market.
    • The company, being an experienced freight forwarder, also offer the options of warehousing, kitting and custom clearance. Select depending on your respective business needs.
    • They can also help in managing your shipments in terms of the entire supply chain so that the process becomes smoother and faster. 


As you can see, this process of shipping from China to USA has many intricate details. All of these factors can impact your profit margins depending on the way you utilise it. With tome and experience, you will be able to handle these factors better. 

The experienced freight forwarder, China Freight, knows how to deal with local suppliers and also has enough connections at the destination port to sort out in case of any issues. We hope we have been successful in giving you a better understanding of the processes involved in sea freight from China to the USA. 

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